Pontius Pilate tried to set Jesus free using a legal gambit. Every year, at Passover, Pilate would set one prisoner free, so the governor gave the crowd a choice: Jesus or Barabbas? Each of the gospels describes Barabbas a little differently. Matthew calls him “a notorious prisoner” (27:16). Notorious means his crimes were well-known. Mark tells us, Barabbas was guilty of murder (15:7), while Luke agrees. Barabbas was “a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder” (Luke 23:19).
Maybe Barabbas was a member of the Sicarii – the assassins (Acts 21:38). These men would hide daggers in their robes and walk among packed crowds killing people. According to The Lexham Bible Dictionary, “this group was known for their use of daggers and the speed of their executions.” Terrorists thrive on chaos and disorder.
But now, Barabbas had been caught and awaited execution. The contrast between this black-heart and the purity of Jesus couldn’t be clearer. But there is also something they had in common. Some ancient manuscripts of Matthew 27:17 recognize “Barabbas” as a paternal name and call him “Jesus Barabbas”! (See Metzger’s Textual Commentary for a fuller discussion.) The killer’s paternal name means “Son of the Father.” Which father? Jesus was the Son of God. Barabbas was clearly a child of the devil. What does it mean that the crowd chose Satan’s offspring over the Christ? Then Pilate washed his hands of the whole affair. Jesus was led off to be crucified, and Barabbas was set free.
I’ve told you about my notebook before. I have many questions that I don’t have answers to, so I put them in my notebook. Jan has instructions to bury the questions with me when I die. That way, I will have them close at hand during the resurrection, and I can finally have them answered! (Of course, Jan claims she will have the last laugh since she will cremate me and my notebook!) One of my questions is, “What happened to Barabbas after he was set free?” Did he rejoin his rebel brothers and fight in the Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66 – 70)? Did he watch Jesus die in his place? If you were Barabbas, what would you do? How would you feel? I’d like to think he repented of his wicked ways and became a Christian, but we will have to wait for that Great Day to know.